tv Tavis Smiley WHUT March 29, 2012 8:00am-8:30am EDT
tavis: good evening from new york. i am honored to be at nyu for a conversation about women, children, and poverty in america. i am joined by a terrific panel including nely galan, cecilia firethunder , faye wattleton, suze orman, h, randi weingarten, sheryl wudunn, and julianne malveaux. we are glad you joined us for "made visible." [applause]
>> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it is the cornerstone we all know. it is not just a street or a boulevard, but the place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> aft, making a difference every day. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- [applause] tavis: i am going first to the
labor secretary. women and children, as you well know, are falling faster into poverty than any other group of americans. it is also the case that the younger you are in this country -- it is hard for me to get this out -- the more likely you are to be poor. something is wrong with a nation that allows women and children, often the week and the vulnerable, to fall into poverty faster than anybody else. and when to start with you and ask why that is the case. why are women and children falling into poverty faster than anybody else? please welcome our labor secretary, hilda solis. >> one of the things the president did, president obama, since he got into office, was provide funding to help provide support -- a safety net for these vulnerable populations, particularly women, women of color, and children. the and this was -- th emphasis
was to provide workforce investment and training. education and training is the key. it is about helping people get a job. make sure young people have opportunities. in this recovery, what we have seen is more participation on the part of women. they have fallen out of the work force. they have been stagnant in terms of their wages. there is still that gap, 80 cents on the dollar. it gets harder when it is minority women, african-american women is 70 cents on the dollar. latinas it is 60. for native americans, it is probably a lot wider. our effort is to put people back into jobs like renewable energy, health care, i.t., and stretching our information to put funding into programs that did not exist in the last decade. i have to give credit to those folks who helped support the funding for these programs. now, in my opinion, is not the time to take away that safety
net. there are folks in washington who would like to see us go back, because they want to make the deficit the issue, as opposed to helping vulnerable populations. 15 million more women are taking advantage of our workforce training programs. we need to make sure we incentivize tax breaks so we can create jobs and allow for individuals to stand up on their own, and also look for their own jobs and create their own jobs. we are looking at using the unemployment benefits in a different format, allowing people to use work sharing, stay on the job and get paid a subsidized salary, or start your own business. that is exciting for women. many of us are the bread earners in our household. you see a lot of minority kids that are still dropping out of school. by the same token, some of our programs are serving the hardest to serve population. job corps programs -- right now, we need to see these expanded.
tavis: you referenced deficit reduction a moment ago. i find it incredulous there are people in washington who do not want to trade six conversation -- change the conversation to deficit reduction. there are voices increasing in washington and around the globe, calling for austerity. how is it possible that anybody in his or her right mind in washington could possibly think austerity is the answer? >> part of the, i think, ms. calculation on the part of those folks, who do not understand what is happening -- you cannot do both at the same time. you ease into it. you have to look at where there is excessive spending that will not heard volatile population that is the priority of this administration. even this upcoming budget debate for 2013, there is a prioritized effort to expand our job-creation programs.
i am happy the president is doing that for the first time for displaced workers, but also hard hit neighborhoods. he is making a concerted effort to do that. we have done already some of those programs through demonstration projects, and when did our community colleges, working hand in hand with entrepreneurs. if you are going to keep funding things that may not show a good resort -- a good result -- we are talking to businesses to be part of the partnership and make sure there is a lot in it. we are looking for real, secure jobs that pay well, not just a minimum wage. we are setting up new applications on the internet so women can look at each other's wages across the board and different corporations and start making some assessments, and hopefully negotiating for higher salaries. we should not have to wait for major legislation that recently the past -- got passed, lilly
ledbetter. pay equity. you should not do the same job a man is doing and not receive any wage increase or benefit package. that poor woman and many like her have lost out, in my opinion, up to $360,000 worth of earning power because that money was not put into her paycheck when she was working 20 or 30 years on the job. tavis: as i expected, the labor secretary would give me all the room i needed to run with. there is so much she said already to unpack. my friend julianne malveaux is the president of the bennett college for women. she is a leading economist and the author of "surviving and thriving, 365 facts in black economic history." a month to put two on the spot. do you believe the numbers we are being given, all kind of numbers coming out of our government? we are told, for example, that
there are 50 million of us living in poverty. we are tolf you combine those living in poverty and near poverty is 150 million people. that means one out of two americans is in or near poverty. you get into the specifics of the hispanic and african- american unemployment rate. let me start by ask you whether or not you, as an economist, believes the numbers we are told? or is it worse? >> unemployment is worse. the secretary would concede something is published monthly called employment and earnings. it details the unemployment rate. buried inside this publication is alternate measures of unemployment. if the unemployment rate is 8.3% theoretically, the worse measure is something like 14%. for african americans, the number is almost 25%. that is one in four.
1, 2, 3, you. at is important. we have not talked about people who dropped out of the labor market, people with part-time jobs that want full-time jobs. the numbers we see -- we need to understand that property is at a level it has not been since 1993. overall, our poverty rate rose between 2009 and 2010 to 15.2%, almost one in six americans. for african americans, the number is 27.4%. for latinos, 25.8%. for asian americans, the numbers are lower. interestingly, the numbers on naked american people are not published. directly -- on native american people are not published. the sample size is too small. i know why. a rhetorically speaking -- tavis: tell us why.
>> under a president that will go unnamed but was president around 1981, they actually wanted to stop collecting racial and ethnic statistics. they said, "we are all one america." we do not have a post racial unemployment rate. when black folks have the same unemployment rate as anybody else, we can be post-ratio. -- post-ratial. the native american population is one of our smallest, but we need to invest the resources in finding out what is going on with this but the population. we are cutting education. we have young sisters and brothers who want to go to college, but the dollars are not there. the pell grant is $5,500. room and board is $5,000. where is a sister going to get the other $19,000 from?
loans. if you pick out a loan for anything, you should take it to invest in your education. but i do not understand why -- and students might this -- suze might disagree with me, but as a college president, i need those students enrolled in my college. the president has said we want this to lead the world in the number of people with degrees. to cut education is foolhardy. this is like a farmer deciding to keep their seed corn instead of planting in next year. we should not be cutting education. we have task forces looking at the middle-class, which we do care about. let's also look at poverty. tavis: since we are in new york, do not be surprised if bill clinton marks in the door in about 10 minutes after he hears this. but let me ask you specifically with regard to women and children in poverty how much of this is bill clinton default. you know what i mean by that.
15 years ago, he was our friend who pushed through this welfare reform bill. the husband of our dear sister, marion wright, her husband quit his administration job over this issue. let me ask you -- how much are the chickens coming home to roost? how much of this mess is bill clinton's responsibility? >> i call it the welfare deform. the system may have worked in perfectly, and you made it even worse. the lifetime cap and how long you can stay on is five years. that makes the sense. bill clinton was pandering, frankly, to the right, when he did welfare reform. we all love bill clinton, but he was pandering for the right, and was excoriated on the floor of congress. i do not think anyone has the appetite -- this particular congress is one of the worst we have seen in a very long time, especially around issues for
women and children. they do not mind cutting anything. they are running around the country, talking about austerity at the same time we are seeing people falling into poverty. [applause] tavis: so, you say this is the worst congress in recent memory, with regard to the rights of women. and what he specifically to collect -- connect this war on women in washington with poor women and their babies specifically. >> there has always been a war against the poor. this is not a country that has had a tremendous sympathy for poor people. the notion that somehow we have slipped into an era in which poor people do not matter is not quite the way our history would define it. we really do not care much about poor people. when we think about what is happening today against women in
public life and political life, it is not something that is new to our particular society, and to the political landscape. it has been going on for more than 30 years. americans -- these are not act of god. no one came down from the mountain and struck lightning and said, "you shall oppose women and you shall take back women's rights, and you shall invade women's vaginas in order to advance your political agenda." this has been a very long time coming. and we have allowed it to happen, because women still do not have first-class citizenship in our society. all of us here have been working for that. it is a very long journey. let us make no mistake about it. what we see going on in congress now is a very long legacy. it is a long legacy in the composition of the supreme court. it is a long legacy in all that
has taken place in states throughout the country. chip away has occurred over the last three decades. it is very interesting however that the chipping away always seems to focus only on sexual decisions of women and our reproductive decisions. so i think we have to really ask ourselves why are there more children in poverty? why are their families in disruption? a lot of what has taken place is that women are primarily the heads of households now. and we are not perceived as real first-class citizens. and there is an effort being taken to take us back, for real, to the traditional role that we have played in society, which is mother and caretaker, as opposed to women in our own right, that deserve the dignity of our humanity as women, whether we are mothers, whether we are wives, whether we are sisters. we are women, and deserve the right of that committee. the war on women's reproductive
lives is pretty stunning at the beginning of the 21st century, the we are engaged in a conversation, a serious part of political life -- with all that is before us, with all the challenges of our society, with all the desire for peace in the world, and movements taken all over the world, that have used us in many ways as a template for the aspirations of peace -- that our conversation has devolved into a conversation about what birth control pill you will use. it is simply unacceptable. it is undignified and unbecoming of a nation such as ours that we are engaged in those kinds of conversation. [applause] tavis: 1992 was labeled, you recall, the year of the woman,
because of so many women running for high office. many of them even winning. in 1992, just 20 years ago, we are celebrating the year of the woman. 20 years later, there is a war on women. hal than do women -- how do women get compelled to exercise their agency to run for high office, to be part of the body politic? whether we like it or not, that is the sphere in which these things are addressed. why not exercise once run for office? >> women have to support women, and sometimes we are our own worst enemies. [applause] and the difficulty -- the difficulty that women running for higher political office find it is finding that early support that does not say that you are guaranteed to be a winner any more than men are guaranteed to be a winner when they go to donors and say,
"support me. i have to do the research necessary to put together a credible campaign." women simply do not find that ki of resource available to propel us. until women say that, this is good to be over. there is no reason for our women and children to be in poverty. there is no reason except complacency and an unwillingness of women to do what was done in the early part of the 20th- century, which made it possible for all of us to be sitting on this platform today. tavis: the numbers are clear. women make up the majority of americans who are in poverty. i want to come to cecilia firethunder -- i love saying that name. dr. west and i took the party tour around the country last year. we started on african-american
reservation. we asked them about how the recession had impacted them. do you know what the women said to us? "what recession? it has always been this way for us on the reservation." cecilia firethunder was a single mom back in the day. she goes on to become a nurse so she can take care for kids. she runs for office and becomes the first woman to be the president of the oglala sioux tribe. it is a wonderful story of single mothers exercising their own agency. when dr. malveauz -- malveaux says we do not keep track of what goes on on the reservation, cecilia firethunder, tell me what it is like for the recession means nothing because it is always that way. >> i want millions of americans
who represent as native american -- we represent over 500 tribes, large and small. the largest is the navajo. the second largest is my reservation. 2.5 million acres of land. 40,000 citizens living in my country. over half of our population are 18 and under. he talks about what recession. during the depression, i can recall my father and uncle talking. "what depression?" america -- unfortunately, there is a huge piece of land between l.a. and new york city called middle america, where we live. many of the indian reservations are in middle america. we have much land, lots of poverty. one of the things i like to remind the audience is that the american indians are the only ones mentioned in article 6 of the united states constitution,
where the "is, "to honor all treaties made by this government as the united states of america." if we are mentioned in the constitution of this country's founding document, what are we always -- why are we always try to get more money to address the poverty in our community? the other thing i want to be very clear is we have at this point that the majority of the women who work in trouble communities are farm women. most college graduates in our troubled community are women. many of the positions held in our tribal communities, whether they are principles, superintendents, or teachers, are women. when you look at the huge leadership amongst women in our tribal community -- people say, "why are women taking the lead?"
we have entrepreneurs and small businesses. one of the greatest challenges we face in our communities is access. we are so role and so isolated it is really difficult to get from point a to point b. the factor in poverty. that makes access more difficult, to get to a grocery store, to make sure your food dollars go further, to get to town to see a specialist. when we look at where indian people live, we are looking at isolation and large miles in between. that makes it difficult many times. in the city, you have mass transit. in rural communities, we do not have that. poverty exists and has existed for many years in our communities. it will continue to exist unless some changes are made, to be able for young women to go back to school. we have changed the laws. we have changed many laws.
there are many federal programs that may look good, but when you start to implement those programs, it makes it difficult for people in rural communities to be able to use those types of programs. one of the things that has been successful is getting our young women back into school. we have a high dropout rate. our go about rate is connected to other social problems. i could talk about everything. however, in many tribal communities like mine, women have stepped up to leadership roles. as the first woman president of my tribe -- i am sorry. white women have a glass ceiling. how many have heard about the glass ceiling? in indian america, we have a buckskin ceiling. [laughter] and the buckskin ceiling works like this, ok? buckskin is pliable.
it stretches. for many years, we felt like we were really making progress. we would get only so far and were knocked flat on our rear ends. it is that internalized oppression. in our communities of color, we hold each other back. and not only women. thank you for making that comment. women hold us back, but sometimes some of our men hold us back. this is where the buckskins ceiling came in to play. one of the things i wanted to share with you -- i took my oath of office to be the leader of my nation. i was given a knife, a symbolic gesture, to use this knife to cut through red tape and go places where there are barriers. i tell the story because it is so true. the first person who cut the buckskin ceiling and made a little cut was mankiller.
the second person might have been winona laduke. but on the day of my inauguration, i took my knife and i went wsssssssh. and it opened up. [applause] tavis: we will lead it right there for tonight. look for tomorrow night, night two of our conversation on poverty among women and children in america. thanks for watching. [applause] >> for more information on today's show, does it -- visit the website. tavis: join me next time for part two of our conversation about women, children, and poverty. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard.